Heptares Therapeutics said today it will partner with the laboratory of Anthony Davenport, Ph.D., of the University of Cambridge to fight cardiovascular diseases by discovering novel molecules that target and modulate the apelin receptor.

The value of the 3-year research collaboration was not disclosed.

The apelin receptor is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) found on the surface of cells in the lung, heart, and vascular system. Dr. Davenport directs the Human Receptor Research Group at the department of experimental medicine and immunotherapeutics.

Dr. Davenport’s group focuses on understanding the role of GPCRs and their transmitters in the human cardiovascular system and how these are altered with disease—specifically, the consequences of endothelial cell dysfunction—in order to identify new targets for novel drugs. Previous research by the group has found apelins increased cardiac contractility.

“The apelin receptor is emerging as an exciting new target in the regulation of cardiovascular function and offers a unique approach to treat a number of serious cardiovascular diseases,” Heptares CSO Fiona Marshall said in a statement.

Heptares said the collaboration with University of Cambridge is the second being launched through the company’s Opportunities in Receptor Biology for Industrial Translation (ORBIT) collaborative research initiative. The first occurred last year when Heptares partnered with Imperial College London’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) to focus on an orphan receptor implicated in a range of immune disorders, including asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.

The 3-year, up-to-£5 million ($6.3 million) ORBIT initiative was launched in February 2016, with the goal of creating transformative medicines by promoting and broadening the application of Heptares’ proprietary structure-based drug design expertise directed at GPCRs.

In November, Heptares made another move to strengthen its GPCR-based R&D productivity by agreeing to acquire G7 Therapeutics for CHF 12 million ($12.1 million) in a deal completed on December 14. The acquisition was designed to strengthen the buyer’s intellectual property and platform for structure-based drug design and development focused on GPCRs.

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